The Senate’s hearing on AI regulation was dangerously friendly

A photograph of Altman smiling broadly at the senate hearing.
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman appearing before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law. | Photo by Win McNamee / Getty Images

The most unusual thing about this week’s Senate hearing on AI was how affable it was. Industry reps — primarily OpenAI CEO Sam Altman — merrily agreed on the need to regulate new AI technologies, while politicians seemed happy to hand over responsibility for drafting rules to the companies themselves. As Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) put it in his opening remarks: “I can’t recall when we’ve had people representing large corporations or private sector entities come before us and plead with us to regulate them.”

This sort of chumminess makes people nervous. A number of experts and industry figures say the hearing suggests we may be headed into an era of industry capture in AI. If tech giants are allowed to write the rules governing this…

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